Sunday, August 06, 2006

A day in the life of

This and the previous post were both written about a month ago. I hadn't found a computer that would let me conect my camera to it to let me get the files off. In UB, however, anything is possible.

So I thought I would write about a regular day during my life here as a trainee.
I wake up at 8am every morning to the sound of static on my shortwave radio. I tried turning it to a station at night for a while until I realized that I will never get reception on the same station in the morning as I did at night. I supposed that a soft static is better than the terrible beeping of an alarm going off though, so I can’t complain. After folding my blanket and sheets, brushing my teeth, and dressing, I eat the breakfast that my host mother has prepared for me. It is usually cash (a sort of grits-y meal that isn’t bad in small quantities, but is served in large) or some mini-pancakes thingy. Sometimes I get eggs (fried in oil) or some rice and xiam (kinda like a hotdog). This is always served with some very hot suu-tai stea (salted milk tea) which I can already see myself not being able to live without. I am also slowly developing calluses in my mouth from the heat, and hopefully I will be able to drink it as fast as they can soon, although doubtful. I fill my water bottles with the water that has distilled over night, and pack my backpack with the materials I’ll need for the day. I say bye and walk about 5 minutes to school across a field with some cows grazing, avoiding the variety of patties. There are a couple of cute calves that are usually around playing that I like to watch during the short walk.
There are 11 of us total here in Bayangol, and we are split into groups: 5 in ours and 6 in the other. We started with 6 too, but our group boasts the only group to have had a volunteer who decided to leave (he did on the second week of training). We begin class with some questions about the day before, and we use this time to share anything bizarre that may have happened the night before and learn the vocabulary for it from our teacher (Enxhee). We have class until about 10:45 when we have just about reached our limit of things we can learn, and then have a half hour break, which the teachers have recently been interrupting, making us explain to them what we are talking about in Mongolian. After about half an hour of break, we head back to the classroom and learn some more Mongolian until 1. I got home for lunch, which is usually just being finished by my sister or mom. Lunch and dinner are similar meals, always consisting of goat meat, carrots, and onion. This is put in with either rice, noodles, or a sort of noodle homemade out of flower (my personal favorite). This can either be cooked up as is or water can be added to make a soup (which they have been making less, either cause they have noticed that I like it less or because it’s warmer out). There are also three sizes of dumplings that they make, which they can either steam or fry, and these can be eaten normally or added to the soup or suu-tai stea. I always try to help when making the dumplings, but still haven’t gotten the art down. They’ll laugh at me and try to show me again how to pinch them correctly, and then continue to make them at lightening speed while I slowly make one poorly. Its fun though, and I’m getting better, and I mean they are still edible, just not pretty.
After lunch we’ll clean up, and practice what I learned with whoever is home. I’ll usually have something to do in the afternoon at 3: previously it was TEFL training and cultural classes, and from now on its going to be practice teaching (I’ll have my own class). Days that I have nothing to do in the afternoon are usually when I write these things or just laze around, read, watch a movie, or play Mongolian games with the family. I feel like after two years I’ll be pretty damn good at the language, cooking, etc, but the games are something that I will never master, especially shaghai. But when I get back to the States, I’m excited to show you all how to play these games and beat you all as bad as they beat me!
Post-afternoon activity, I am called for dinner at about the time that I really start wishing that they would call me for dinner. On nice days we eat outside, if not, we eat in the kitchen or in the galthsoozh (a kind of half inside half outside room where they do the cooking- the kitchen is a normal kitchen, but I guess they only cook there in the winter). Dinner is usually served with regular tea, and lunch can be with either tea. After dinner and cleaning up, we mostly spend the rest of the evening playing volleyball outside and talking with guests. Lots of guests here… friends and family just stop by for a short while, drink some tea, share gossip/news, and go on their way. I’m not really sure if they purposefully stop by here, or if they just kind of walk around and stop by if they are in the mood to. Either way, it provides me with more Mongolian language practice and some more difficult names to try to remember. These activities will continue on until about 11, when it finally gets dark outside and the mosquitoes come out. If it’s raining out, I’ll usually watch a movie with my siblings and give up trying to explain what is going on after about 15 minutes. I’ll then do homework for language and prepare a lesson for the next day. I fill my distiller with water to be ready for me in the morning and try to be in bed by 12 or 1 at the latest, to be ready for a very similar day to come.
Although I have a very regular routine, every day ends of very different from each other. Some times language is boring, or sometimes we play games or learn songs. Some afternoon sessions boring and filled with paperwork, but sometimes we’ll go on a walk around the community or meet a government official. Sometimes we don’t have them, and we go to the river to skip stones, or we climb one of the many hills. Sometimes I cook, and sometimes I’d prefer a piece of bread to what they are giving me. Sometimes I just watch a movie and sleep, sometimes we have a volleyball tournament, and sometimes there is a local show with singing and dancing for us to watch. I’ve gone over to other trainees house and see how different their routines are, and they’ve come over here (I think they secretly wish they didn’t have to leave). Usually though, the days fly by a lot faster than I would expect them to, and I find myself getting ready for bed in a good mood, ready for what tomorrow will bring.


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